Sunday, October 15, 2006

Cool Idea Provides Nuclear Energy for Coastal Areas

The Russians want to put two nuclear reactors on a barge and tow it wherever it's needed to provide electricity. It's actually an American idea from the 1970s! Imagine if we'd had a couple of those ready to go off the Gulf Coast after last year's hurricanes....

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Easier terrorist target, I'd think

MikeAT said...

Anon

If they move from place to place, no they are not. Terrorist don’t just say “let’s hit it”. They study a location for months or years in preparing for an attack.

For example, GEN Dozier who was kidnapped by the Red Brigade in 1981 (?). They studied him for I think it was 6 months before they took him hostage. Dozier was surprised how predictable his routine was.

David said...

Works if the local grid is still functional--which it isn't likely to be after a hurricane--or for powering loads which are very close to the water, like running cranes at the Port of New Orleans. A more robust solution might involve large numbers of big portable generators, with advanced planning of points where they could be attached.

David said...

...evidently posted last comment to the wrong thread

EllenK said...

I would certainly want to know more about how they would sheild the cores on something that toxic. You would think they would be more careful after their own meltdown. Personally, I think that if we used the resources that we have and somehow managed to average costs across the board, we would be more successful at energy production. As it is now too many people are doing this piecemeal. And the restrictions on production of our most accessible resources is what keeps driving costs up.

James Aach said...

Of course, water-borne reactors already exist on nuclear submarines and other vessels, and the power of these may be comparable to what the Rusians are planning. (The reactors are probably a bit different in design, though) There are some safety benefits to having a reactor surrounded by the ocean, the world's largest "heat sink" in engineering terms, but that's unlikely to outweigh the negatives - particularly for civilian use.

If you'd like a layman's guide to the people, politics and technology of the US nuclear industry, see my free, online novel on the topic. I've worked in the nuclear industry for over twenty years. RadDecision.blogspot.com

Darren said...

James, thanks for the insider's look.

allen said...

This wasn't designed as an emergency power source and probably wouldn't be that useful as such. With the grid all torn up you'd want power at critical facilities - hospitals, communication centers, aid stations - for which individual, diesel generators would be both more appropriate and more affordable. You wouldn't be able to move the power from the central source to where it's needed because of the state of the grid. Hence, smaller generators.

The Russians built the reactors to supply power in areas where conventional sources of fuel were difficult to come by and conditions made building especially difficult/expensive. The idea has merit as a cost reduction measure as well. Reactors could be built at a central location and hauled to their destination rather then being built on site. Reduced costs, clearer lines of responsibility, quicker construction.

The safety of nuclear power is a function of both design and operation. The Chernobyl reactors were carbon-pile reactors, essentially nuclear reactors built out of coal. You don't need much education to know what'll happen if you let them get too hot. At the other extreme there are some of the newer pebble-bed reactors which are inherently safe. A coolant loss shuts down the reactor without any action from the operations people.